JTA — Rabbi Binyamin Wolff, a father of eight children and the emissary of the Chabad Hasidic movement in Hanover, Germany, died at 43.
Some 15,000 people attended a virtual funeral for Wolff held on the video conferencing platform Zoom, according to a report in Chabad.org. The few mourners allowed to attend the actual ceremony all wore face masks in keeping with regulations mandated as protection against the coronavirus.
Early reports suggested that Wolff had died of COVID-19, as did an article published Friday by Wolff’s cousin on the website Lubavitch.com. But Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, head of the Jewish Educational Center at Chabad Berlin, said the hospital had confirmed that the cause of death was not the coronavirus.
A letter from the Hanover Medical College’s internal medicine department, reviewed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, states that Wolff was tested four times for COVID-19 and all the tests came back negative.
Wolff “was taken at the height of his strength and activities; his passing is a terrible loss for German Jewry at large and the Jews of Hanover in particular,” Chabad of Germany said in a statement.
Wolff and his wife Sterni served as Chabad emissaries in Odessa, Ukraine, before moving to Hanover in 2005. A fund has been set up to help the family, which had raised nearly $1.4 million as of April 30.
Teichtal told Chabad.org that the family is “here to stay. This is absolutely a statement of what Benny wanted and a testament to who his wife and family are.”
Wolff was born in Israel in 1976 and studied at Chabad yeshivas in Israel and New York before receiving his rabbinic ordination in Houston, Texas.